Tuesday 31 August 2021

Day 533 of self-isolation - Bolt mod

Bolt mod

I found a video that gives a very good how-to on dismantling , cleaning and repairing a model M keyboard. And another that does much the same, but also gives a parts list. And when I looked, there were tons of these, which shows that this is a very common practice. I once dismantled, cleaned and fixed a model F (the IBM PC keyboard) and it worked well afterwards.

So this is going to be my next project. 

I have three model Ms that are faulty. In one, the b,n,/ and space bar don't work. In another it's the two ctrl keys and the two alt keys. In another, the space bar is unreliable. 

The problem with the model M disassembly, is that the backplate is riveted on to the key base, with plastic rivets, and if you cut off the rivet heads, you can't rivet it back. But you can replace the rivets with nuts and bolts. You need:

  • 87 x M2 Screw, 8mm Length, .4mm Pitch
  • 87 x M2 Nut, .4mm Pitch
  • 87 x M2 Washer 
  • I bought 100 of each on eBay, in stainless steel, for under £10. I also bought a 1/16" drill bit, to drill out the rivet cores. I already have the 4mm socket spanner (for the M2 nuts) and the screw driver. I also have the 5.5 mm nut driver for openng up the keyboard, and the chisel for scraping off the plastic rivet heads (or I could just use a sharp knife). And I have a drill press and drill, for drilling out the rivet cores so they can be replaced with the bolts. I also bought some silver paste, so that if any of the traces are cut, I can paste over them with conductive paste.

    The whole operation looks a bit fiddly and detailed, but it's so common, it has a name - the bolt mod.

    Monday 30 August 2021

    Day 532 of self-isolation - 14 stone 6 pounds

    14 stone 6 pounds

    Another day, another pound. I'm getting closer to the important milestone of 200 pounds (14 stone, 4 pounds). I've lost about 40 pounds in the last 18 months. 

    I started just before the first lockdown. I had a tooth extraction, which wasn't too terrible, but I was on water only for a day, then soup only for a couple of days (and not much of that), and that gave a kick-start to my weight loss. The pandemic gave me an extra incentive, because Covid is worse when you're obese.

    So, now I'm entitled to another bottle of incentive beer.


    Sunday 29 August 2021

    Day 531 of self-isolation - More keyboards

    More keyboards

    I went to Amazon, and found a Spanish-keycap Unicomp keyboard for only £12. That's a ridiculous price, so I bought one. The keycaps are all Spanish, so I'll have to replace a dozen or two of them, but since I have all these faulty keyboards, I can cannibalise those. I'm just hoping that this is a bucking spring keyboard.

    I also found the exact Unicomp keyboard that I like, from a UK company, which means postage is free, I won't have to worry about import duties, and I can reclaim the VAT, so it'll only cost me £107.50. So I bought one of those also. I got it with a USB interface, because that seems to be the way that keyboards are going.

    Saturday 28 August 2021

    Day 530 of self-isolation - Which vaccine?

    Which vaccine?

    Which vaccine is the best? I'm not bothered about catching the virus if all it leads to is a couple of days in bed or less. But I don't want to have to go to hospital, I don't want to need ICU and I don't want to die. So which vaccine is best?

    It turns out, the Oxford University/AstroZeneca vaccine performs the best (Covishield is a brand name of the AZ vaccine).

    This table looks at the outcomes of people who test positive for the virus. If you're unvaccinated, you have a 13% chance of having to go to hospital, and 1.3% chance of death. But if you have the AZ vaccine, that's a 1.5% chance of hospital, and 0.03% chance of death.

    I got the Pfizer, which gives me a 2% chance of hospital, and 0.15% chance of death, so it is nearly as good as AZ.

    Sinopharm (the Chinese vaccine) is the worst vaccine in this study, but still a lot better than not getting vaccinated


    Friday 27 August 2021

    Day 529 of self-isolation - 29x


    Even if you're fully vaccinated, you can still get Covid. That surprises some people, but only the people who don't know how vaccines work.

    Vaccines work by showing your body some aspect of the virus, so that you're primed and ready when the real thing shows up. Which it will - the delta variant is very infectious.

    So, you get infected, your body swings into action. "I've seen something rather like this before, and I know what to do". And before the virus an really take hold, it gets fought to a standstill, and then wiped out. So you get some symptoms, but not too bad, and if you get tested for those, you know you've had Covid. If you're unvaccinated, this happens five times as often as if you're unvaccinated.

    But I've had colds before, and I think I had flu once, and it wasn't pleasant, but a couple of days in bed and I was on the road to recovery. The important thing is, not to get ill so bad that you have to go to hospital.

    If you have to go to hospital, that's because you've got it so bad, you can't breathe. The oxygen level in your blood falls, you feel like you're short of breath, and it doesn't get better, it just keeps getting worse. So you call an ambulance, and they give you oxygen and take you to hospital, unless the hospitals are full, which can happen in a pandemic, because there are so many other people with the same problem.

    Unvaccinated people have 29 times as many hospitalisations as vaccinated.

    And that that point, it's too late, a vaccination isn't going to help you. The only thing that can help you is hospital care, and maybe even an intensive care unit.

    In hindsight, you should have gotten vaccinated. I'm hearing a lot of people who are in hospital, saying that. Hindsight doesn't help, though. Only foresight helps.


    Thursday 26 August 2021

    Day 528 of self-isolation - Model F

    Model F

    My first PC keyboard was a model F. The layout is very different from a model M, and the interface is very different.  I was able to find a converter to deal with the interface, so I was able to connect it to my HP xw6600 and it worked. But the layout is so different to the model M, I don't think I can use it. My fingers know where to go on a keyboard, and if a keyboard is significantly different, it really bothers me and slows me down.

    That's a pity, because the feel of that keyboard is even better than the model M.

    It cost me £288. It was the only keyboard you could use at the time I bought it (1983). It was a very good keyboard.

    One day, the Q key stopped working. After staggering along for a while without it, the problem worsened; the W key stopped working. So I dismantled it. There were a LOT of pieces, and I found that the problem was a dead greenfly. I cleaned everything, and reassembled it, and it worked again.

    And it still works. But the layout isn't close enough to a model M for me to feel happy with it. Yes, I could get used to ut, but all the other keyboards I use are model M, and I'm not going to become accustomed to three model M and one model F.

    Maybe I'll use it one day.



    Wednesday 25 August 2021

    Day 527 of self-isolation - No McMilkshakes

    No McMilkshakes

    Even in my worst estimates of Brexit, I could not have predicted this. McDonalds has run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks. This is part of a more widespread problem - truckers.

    Brexit has led to a lot of truckers leaving the UK, international deliveries take a lot longer (which worsens the trucker shortage), and the pandemic has made things worse.

    Various supermarkets are also having problems with deliveries, and Nandos and KFC are suffering from shortages.


    Tuesday 24 August 2021

    Day 526 of self-isolation - Pfizer approved

    Pfizer approved

    One of the reasons I've heard people give for not getting vaccinated, is that the Pfizer approval is "for emergency use only". 

    That changed today. Pfizer now has full FDA approval.

    Of course, people will still use the batshit crazy excuses, such as the fear of being microchipped, or the 5G fantasy (whatever that is). And Trump got booed for telling people at his rally to get vaccinated. Or the fact that the vaccine was developed very quickly. But full FDA approval is the "gold standard" for medications.

    Monday 23 August 2021

    Day 525 of self-isolation - A trip to London

     A trip to London

    Daughter.2 is slumming it in her horrid hovel while her flat is redone, so we all met up at daughter.1. Grandson.3 can now count up to ten. We had Cypriot food takeaway for dinner.



    Sunday 22 August 2021

    Day 524 of self-isolation - Fresnel lens

    Fresnel lens

    With the weakness in my left eye, I thought that a magnifier might help. So I bought a Fresnel lens on eBay. It means I get a flat, light magnifier, and it also has LED lights. The magnification is x3

    The light is too dim to be useful, and the magnification doesn't look like X3 to me. If you look at the picture of a 100 euro note, it looks about 10% bigger, not 200%.

    So it was a nice idea, but the implementation wasn't good.

    Maybe I'll find a better implementation. 

    Then I thought, suppose I connect a camera to a screen, and magnify digitally instead of analogue with a Fresnel?

    Then I thought, that's what a Smartphone is. Then I thought, I expect someone has already done this.

    So I looked and found "Magnifying Glass + Flashlight", a free app in the Apple store. I installed it, and it's rather good. It makes it possible to read text on a page with my left eye, but the magnification has to be x5 and it doesn't get much of the page at a time. 

    Maybe I'll work on this a bit.



    Saturday 21 August 2021

    Day 523 of self-isolation - Lockdown down under

    Lockdown down under 

    New Zealand has extended a national lockdown until Tuesday.

    Half of Australia is in lockdown. Sydney will be in lockdown until the end of September.

    And in the UK, cases are rising again; the latest number of new cases is 37314. They were in decline from 50,000 to 25000, but in the last week or so, they've been rising again.

    And in America, daily deaths are now over 1000 again, new cases 160000. In some states, the healthcare system is now swamped, and we're about to find out what happens when people who need hospitalisation, cannot go to hospital.

    Friday 20 August 2021

    Day 522 of self-isolation - 14 and a half

    14 and a half

    Achievement unlocked. I will celebrate with a beer, kindly donated by daughter.1

    Thursday 19 August 2021

    Day 521 of self-isolation - USA over 1000

    USA over 1000

    The daily Covid death rate had fallen to 250 per day, but the deadly combination of the delta variant, and the way that the governors of Texas and some other states have allied themselves with the virus by banning mask mandates, has led to a resurgence of the disease.

     The latest daily death number is 1015, and the new cases number is 150,958 (up from a low of 13000 in June).

    This is, of course, driven by the two accellerants of low vaccination numbers, and zero state government action (apart from actions that help the virus).

    Fortunately, this is an epidemic that's only hitting those who have chosen to be vulnerable. Anyone over 16 in the USA can get vaccinated, and 90% of the people entering hospital, are the unvaccinated - those who have chosen to play Covid roulette.

    Why? I don't know. It's like choosing to cross a busy road with a blindfold. Sure, you're free to do it, but who in their right mind would take such a stupid chance?

    Wednesday 18 August 2021

    Day 520 of self-isolation - Seven bicycles

    Seven bicycles

    I've just done some maintenance on seven bicycles

    My first bike was as an undergraduate. As soon as I got there, I went to the cattle market, and bought a bicycle for five pounds and learned to ride it on the way back to my digs. It served me well for three years; I maintained it as necessary; fixing the gears, oiling the chain. replacing bearings and fixing tires. I sold it to a friend when I left.

    There was then a gap for a long time.

    About ten years ago, I got out ladysolly's old bicycle, fixed it up, and took it on a caching trail along a railway track that had been converted to a cycleway. It felt like I was flying. I hadn't forgotten how to ride a bike!

    And then, a year or so later, I got my first electric bike. It was a big, heavy machine, ready-built, costing over £1000. I went caching on that bike along bridleways and cyclepaths. But it was very heavy, and getting it past obstacles was really difficult. Also lifting it on and off the car carrier was a big weight.

    So I bought a folding bike, with 20 inch wheels. And two extra batteries. It worked well; it was much lighter, and I could move it over obstacles much more easily. Until it broke. I was sitting on the bike, stationary, and the frame just broke. There was no way it could be repaired. I walked back to the car, drove to where I'd left the bike, loaded the bike in, and drove home.

    So I bought another just like it. But this time, instead of installing the batteries on a bracket behind the bike, I kept them in a bike bag on a back rack. I still have that bike.

    I also bought a lightweight aluminium 20 inch wheel bike, which was nice to ride, but I missed the electric boost. So I took the wheel off the broken bike, and replaced the front wheel. I still have that bike. It has nine gears, Sturmey Archer, which means that you can change gears while stationary, which you can't do on a derailleur geared bike.

    I was much encouraged by my ability to do this, and decided to make my own electric bike using a folding 26 inch wheel bike and an electric bike conversion kit..

    So I bought an Everest folding bike with 26 inch wheels, for £99. Similar bikes are still available new for £170, second hand for a lot less. I replaced the front wheel with a motorised wheel, and for batteries, I used Hobbyking. Hobbyking mostly sell model aircraft and remote control model cars, but the batteries that they sell are great for bicycles, and MUCH cheaper than batteries sold as bike batteries.

    The Everest still works, but then I found something a LOT better. That's the Xiongda double speed motor.  You fit it just like any other hub motor, but you can switch it between high gear and low gear. For caching over bridleways and other rough ground, I used low gear, but if I need to whizz back to the car along roads, I used high gear. 

    I put that motor into a Haro Samchuly 26 inch wheel folding bike, which meant that I had to install the motor in a wheel rim, which isn't easy, because you have to get spokes that are the right size, and the spokes have to be strung up in the right way.. The Haro was a perfect host bike. The folding was great, it had 21 gears, good brakes and I could easily add a back carrier. I armoured the tires by using Kevlar tires, with extra-thick inner tubes, and a gel insert. All this meant that, even over the roughest terrain, punctures were almost non-existent. I carried an extensive tool kit, just in case. That became my main caching bike.

    This all worked so well, that I kept an eye on eBay, and when someone offered two Haro Samchuly bikes at a really good price, I bought both. I converted one of them into another Xiongda-powered bike, but at 48 volts instead of 36, giving me somewhat more power. The other one I kept as a non-electric, thinking that it could be used for spare parts, or something.

    So I have seven bikes in my  bike park. And some of them haven't been touched for years, so I decided to do a bit of maintenance. I got them all out, pumped up the tires, oiled the chains and tested the brakes. All of them seem to be in great working order, except the valve on one tire leaks noticeably. I could replace that valve, or replace the whole inner tube, but it's one of the 20 inch wheels, so I won't bother.

    I also recharged the batteries. All the "multirotor" batteries are fine (Hobbyking stopped selling them, they were very cheap and very good). Most of the others are too old.

    So I now have six electric bikes operational (and one unpowered), although I'm only using the first electric bike I bought (but with a new controller and batteries) and the 36v Samchuly.


    Tuesday 17 August 2021

    Day 519 of self-isolation - Blue smoke

    Blue smoke

    I was trying to charge up my bike batteries. And I got the connections wrong. As a result, 50 amps tried to go down a wire rated for less than one amp. There was grey smoke, and then blue smoke, I realised that I'd done and pulled the connections apart, but by they they were really hot, and I have a burn on my thumb and first finger. They'll heal.

    The good news is that I don't seem to have damaged anything important, the thin wire acted as a fuse.

    Even better news; all my bike batteries are still good, and so are at least six of the chargers - I'll check the others tomorrow And I inflated the tires of my three best bikes, and they seem OK.

    Monday 16 August 2021

    Day 518 of self-isolation - I bought a Model M

    I bought a Model M

    And I got it cheap, because the keyboard-to-computer cable is frayed and has the wrong sort of computer connector. But if I can't get my faulty model M to work, then I have that cable.

    I got it for  £76, which is pretty cheap for a model M, vintage 1993 (nearly 30 years old).

    Ebay is excellent. Model M keyboards are marvellous.

    Sunday 15 August 2021

    Day 517 of self-isolation - Splash part 2

    Splash part 2

    After letting the keyboard dry out, there are still four keys not working; v, b, / and space. 

    The £20 keyboard that I bought works. I had to swap the keytops for "insert" and "Num lock", which is a bit random. Also, the Esc key is "Attend call", what's that about? And a few other mysterious key caps. But the keyboard isn't as clicky as I'd like.

    Saturday 14 August 2021

    Day 516 of self-isolation - PDU


    I woke up this morning and found that one of my computers was down. No ping. So I looked at the PDU (Power Distribution Unit) that supplies power to it. And it was dark.

    I checked the 10 amp fuse in the plug, it was fine. I pressed the reset, no change. So I wrote "DUFF" on the label, and went upstairs to the store room. I'm not going to try to repair it, because I have a ton of replacements.

    Upstairs, I have two 120-volt PDUs (left over from when my servers were in Washington), a set of four 240-volt PDUs that I used when I was hosted at Watford, and four PDUs just like the faulty one, except that they worked. I can't remember where I used those. These PDUs have a serial link, but I wrote a web-based interface to make my life easier.

    I also have two APC PDUs that have a web interface, and a couple of Polish-made PDUs that can handle 24 outlets each. Oh, and I also have a bunch of home-made PDUs, based on eight-way serial relay switches.

    So, not a big problem that one failed.

    Friday 13 August 2021

    Day 515 of self-isolation - EDF meter

    EDF meter

    Last March, I tried to take an electricity meter reading, so that EDF could bill me. But the display wasn't working, so I contacted EDF to tell them. I sent them a picture of the display, demonstrating that the display was showing garbage, and they started the process of replacing the meter.

    Today (five months later), a man in a van turned up, took one look at the meter, and gave me the bad news. It's a three phase supply. Yes, I knew that. But no-one had told him. He couldn't replace three phase supply meters, he wasn't qualified for that. So he took a picture of the meter, and left.

    You'd think that my electricity supplier would know what they were supplying.

    So I emailed EDF to let them know the situation, and I suppose the next step will take several more months.


    Thursday 12 August 2021

    Day 514 of self-isolation - Splash!


    I accidentally spilled an entire glass of water over my keyboard. And, as a result, the v, b, n and space bar, didn't work.

    This is a bit of a disaster. I use the IBM Model M keyboards, made nearly 35 years ago in 1987. I love that keyboard, because it's loud and clicky, weights a ton, and I can type at full speed on it. It uses a buckling spring mechanism.

    Unicomp still make keyboards with that mechanism, but what I really really love is the original IBM keyboard.

    A couple of decades ago, I found some on sale on eBay, and I bought five. I'm glad I did, because I have four computers at my work station.

    So, I dismantled the keyboard (with a 5.5 mm hex driver) and I've left it open to the air so that it can dry out. I've also removed some of the crud that I found in there. I'm hoping that will fix it, because if it doesn't, I'm looking at some $200 to replace it.

    I also have an IBM PC keyboard. That has a different interface, but still the superb buckling spring mechanism. I have an adapter so that I can connect it to a modern PC, but the remaining problem is that the layout of the PC keyboard is so different from the model M, that I'd have trouble switching between that and the model Ms.

    I'm going to put a model M on my birthday list.

    Meanwhile, I've put in a bid for £52 for a model M, and I've bought a £20 keyboard with the Model M key layout and which claims to be clicky. Both have the wrong sort of DIN connector, but I know how to fix that.


    Wednesday 11 August 2021

    Day 513 of self-isolation - Christmas is coming!

    Christmas is coming!

    Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2021 17:38:17
    From: Joyce <>

    Subject: Christmas Customized Paper Box for You 

    Hi Nice to meet you! This is Joyce from Shanghai Forests Packaging. I was wondering if you need any custom boxes for your product recently? Any inquiry please contact with me
    freely, Sincerely, Joyce Xue| Sales Manager



    Tuesday 10 August 2021

    Day 512 of self-isolation - Dido dumped

    Dido dumped

    Baroness Dido Harding, is the jockey who rode TalkTalk during their huge security failures, and who sat on the Government’s coronavirus Test and Trace programme until April this year, where there was “no clear evidence” the £22 billion venture contributed to a reduction in coronavirus infection levels.

    Her latest leap aboard a horse failed when she fell off during the race for the new chief executive of NHS England. And now she's been thrown by NHS Improvement and will leap clear in October.

    Perhaps she'll go back to hose racing? We can only hope.


    Monday 9 August 2021

    Day 511 of self-isolation - Early Covid

    Early Covid

    I went for my routine blood test, and while the nurse was pricking my thumb and smearing it into the machine that determines if something wicked this way comes, we got to chatting about Covid.

    She told me that she had it in February 2020.

    She hadn't been abroad. So she caught it from someone in England. Community transmission. In February 2020.

    This means that Covid was spreading fast, long before our half-baked government was even thinking about action. Long before I decided to go into lockdown.



    Saturday 7 August 2021

    Day 509 of self-isolation - Here comes Lambda

    Here comes Lambda

    I'm seeing a possibility that the lambda variant is resistant to vaccines.

    This makes sense. In a population that is half vaccinated and half not, then the delta variant will burn like wildfire in the unvaccinated, and in those trillions of virus particles, there will be some that have a mutation that's vaccine resistant. And that mutation wiol spread in both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

    It's evolution in action. Covid will adapt to its environment.


    Friday 6 August 2021

    Day 508 of self-isolation - Malta


    A relative is about to spend six days in Malta. So I checked it out. 

    Malta is the most vaccinated country in the world;  77% are double vaccinated. and it's on the green list. Case numbers are low and falling; death numbers are about one per day.

    This is life today.


    Thursday 5 August 2021

    Day 507 of self-isolation - Pandemic USA

    Pandemic USA

    In the USA, the pandemic is on the rise again. That's partly because they are now experiencing the full fury of the Delta variant (the original Covid had an R of 2 or 3, Delta is 8). This wouldn't matter if everyone were vaccinated - but they aren't. Somehow in America, a health issue became a political issue. The virus doesn't care what your politics are, but Republicans tend to be non-vaccinated, and Democrats tend to be vaccinated. I'm at a loss to explain this, although the personal example of Trump in refusing to wear a mask, may play a part.

    Nearly all the people in hospital, are unvaccinated. Some of them still think that Covid is a hoax, despite what their medical staff tell them. Some are asking for the vaccine, but you have to take the vaccine a few weeks before you get infected, not after. Some of them strongly regret not taking a simple jab that would have saved their life. Some have no regrets, because they still think that the haven't got Covid.

    The latest number of new cases per day in the USA is over 100,000, a number we haven't seen since last February.

    Meanwhile, the governor of Florida is still holding out against a mask mandate (with more cases per day that at any time in the pandemic), and some broadcasters are sneering at the efficacy and advisability of vaccination. It's almost as if there are traitors in high places. There's a war in America against the virus, we have powerful weapons in the vaccines, and some traitorous Americans are on the side of the virus.

    Why? I'm mystified. Maybe the governor of Florida is rolling the dice for the presidential election in 2024? Maybe the broadcasters are playing to the audience of Trumpist antivaxxers? But either way, they must be relying on the large number of Americans who have heard from Terry on Twitter, Hubert on Youtube or Fay on Facebook, that the vaccine is not a good idea, for reasons. And these social media stars have more influence than the medical professionals.

    Why has America lost respect for science?

    Wednesday 4 August 2021

    Day 506 of self-isolation - Another benefit of Brexit?

    Another benefit of Brexit?

    I Just got a letter from Barclaycard. Now, I'll have to pay the "International transaction fee" for transactions between the UK and the EEA (European Economic Area).

     Brexit - the gift that just keeps on giving.


    Tuesday 3 August 2021

    Day 505 of self-isolation - Pingdemic relief

    Pingdemic relief

    Our half-baked government has  changed the NHS app, because there were 700,000 alerts were sent last week. That is, apparently, too many.

    Now, if you test positive, it pings contacts going back two days. It used to be five.

    The DHSC said the update "does not impact the sensitivity of the app, or change the risk threshold".

    So why wasn't it two days in the first place?



    Monday 2 August 2021

    Day 504 of self-isolation - Foreign bodies

    Foreign bodies

    One of the excuses for vaccine refusal that I've heard, is "I don't want to put unknown and unapproved substances into my body". 

    This often comes from someone who is using unknown and unapproved substances for recreation.

    And when people worry about possible side effects of a vaccine, I'd suggest that they read the paper that comes with aspirin, paracetamol, or any other over-the-counter drugs. It will scare the hair off them. Or read the list of ingredients in processed food.

    And, by the way, anyone who thinks that anything natural must be good for you, should be discouraged from eating poisonous berries and toadstools.


    Sunday 1 August 2021

    Day 503 of self-isolation - Delta data

    Delta data

    The Delta variant, first seen in India, is more contagious and causes worse illness than the original.

    Chickenpox has an R0 of 10-12. The original Covid was about 2 but the delta variant is about 6 to 9. So it speads faster than the original Covid. The amount of virus that you need to breathe in to get infected, is lower.

    If you're unvaccinated, you are 8 times more likely to get Covid than if you're vaccinated.That's nice, but a mild case of coughing and sneezing isn't a worry. What is bad news, is if you get so ill that you go to hospital. And vaccination reduces that chance 25-fold.


    The chart below shows you how evolution has made Covid more infectious. It is now as infectious as chickenpox. It's a bit more deadly than seasonal flu, but it's a LOT more infectious.

    Vaccine refusal is going to hit the USA hard, and I don't see any way to avoid that. In the USA, the pandemic has been highly politicised. But we aren't immune to vaccine refusal here.